Archive for January, 2020

Mono printing and text

Attentive reading, complete with careful note-taking, isn’t enough. Heresy? A simple recognition of my truth – which has taken me a while.

This isn’t cramming for an exam without a care for the info drop-out in the following week. It’s not skimming around, pulling together some facts and figures, some quotes and ideas, for an assignment. I’m reading to produce knowledge in me. It takes time – new ideas need to be tried out, connections made, existing knowledge reconsidered.

Making – moving from thought to materiality with knitting, weaving, paper, … – gives space and time for a different sort thinking. Critically, I have found that making which in some way responds to my reading becomes a form of knowledge production in its own right. It’s not just a distraction or filling in the time or simply another part of life – each project has allowed me deeper understanding of what I am reading, and to discover more about how I work and what is attracting my interest. However those earlier projects were all quite time and labour intensive. I wanted to mix it up with something a bit quicker, a bit more responsive to the moment.

Project outline
Monoprinting. It’s quick, versatile, responsive. Plus it’s something I’ve done a fair amount of before (blog search results), so building on skills.

Imagery – build on reading, so glyphs, experiment with what a humanist data viz could look with, plus continue to mine my history with stamps, stencils etc from previous work.

Text – the new element. A curiosity about “poetic” has been growing (see for example the reading scarf project (7-Jan-2020) and recent threads (18-Jan-2020)). I’ve been attempting to write poetic snippets, based on a reference in Jane Hirshfield. All very cringe-worthy, but I feel attempting it myself might make it easier to see and understand what people who know what they are doing are actually doing. I’ve never been successful with getting text into a monoprint.

Session 1: cobweb removal, first text idea
* Akua liquid pigments
* gelatin plate
* glyph stencils cut in paper
* general approach based on Linda Germain video (this link goes to a page on her website, with a mini-course for the price of your contact details).
* computer printed text on monoprint

Results: Space made, tools and materials found, cobwebs disturbed.
A selection:

First text attempt: chose one of the lighter monoprints, scanned it, and opened in gimp. Used image to decide size, font, colour and placement of text. Using the text layer only, printed the result onto the original monoprint.

I’m quite happy with this result – quick and accurate. However I’m not convinced by the regularity of the font on a very informal print.

Second text attempt: Scanned in a monoprint. Hand wrote one of my snippets and scanned that in. In an attempt to integrate text and print I added a faint extra layer, an enlarged and distorted version of the text. I printed the full image – the scan of the monoprint and both layers of text. This means the original monoprint is unchanged.

The result is … alright. I don’t have strong feelings about it. Perhaps the approach could be useful in some future application.

Session 2: Introduction to monoprinting workshop with Kirtika Kain
This workshop was in the studio of Gallery Lane Cove – Kirtika’s work was on exhibit upstairs at the time (20-Jan-2020). Kirtika was very ambitious for a three hour course. To help us build concepts and ideas, we started with 20 minutes of stream of consciousness writing, then some time mind-mapping, exploring words and themes that resonated. We all made monoprints using an A5 piece of acetate as a plate, backdrawing, and printing using barren and press. Next came making and use of stencils, plus other objects as a mask. Running short of time, Kirtika demonstrated drypoint etching on the acetate, and both intaglio and relief printing, then a final burst attempting chine-collé. It was full-on, and I don’t know how the other four students, all I think quite new to print-making, coped. For me it was great as a refresher and energizer.

My “designs” were based on thoughts of humanist data viz and the distorted grid. Messy and unclear, but there’s an energy I like.
A selection:

My first backdrawing included some overall scratching with fingers, and produced a cloudy jumble. The second attempt I tried hard to keep clean, pressing only with the pencil while backdrawing. I love that line! Of course the y-axis is wrong, I need to mirror that… and so,

I needed to try mirror writing!

Session 3: mirror writing on acetate
* Akua intaglio ink
* acetate and gelatin plates
* mirror writing (mostly)

Outcomes:
Backwriting with biro (that had run out of ink), acetate plate

Ghost print

Akua intaglio on acetate; writing into inked surface with wooden skewer (direct, not mirror writing); stamped onto gelatin plate; printed off onto paper using brayer

I made the gelatin plate over four years ago. It has been used repeatedly, and between times sat in the garage with minimal protection. The clearer white dots above are pocks on the plate, not a product of the method. I think there’s some potential here (assuming I melt and reset the plate) – especially given the freedom of being able to write directly.

Not shown: Mirror backwriting, gelatin plate. Did not work.

Acetate plate, mirror writing into ink using a wooden skewer.

Session 4: extending
* Attempt longer text
* Think about page placement
* Combine text and other effects – some in this print session, some by using pages from previous sessions
* An additional method for monoprinted text
* Using yupo paper stencils as both stencil and as pre-inked stamp
* Acetate and gelatin plates

Some results:
Mirror backwriting on acetate plate.

In the print above, the ink of the biro used in backwriting shows through the paper and the transparent yellow plate ink. It assists legibility. However the ghost below is basically unreadable. The only point of interest is that I printed on what was intended to be the back of the page. Excluding the workshop prints, all of the work in this post is on paper originally used in the life drawing workshop with David Briggs last year (16-Feb-2019). Odd here, but could be something to play with… And now I look at the ghost again, it might work to write or paint (watercolour) the text into the blanks of the yellow…

A more complete attempt. More legible. Plus improving on placement (I’m edging towards an A5 booklet idea). The text is based on childhood memories of storms at the end of hot summer days. The infinity shape is my glyph for memory, the stamping is intended to suggest storms.

Experimenting with another text method – writing in printing ink onto acetate. Stamping that onto the gelatin plate, then printing off. Squelchy. I’d need to find a better way of managing the amount of ink in the writing.

Finally some general play.

I’m pretty happy with my results overall – not the individual pages, but in the options I now have to work responsively and relatively intuitively as a support to and extension of my other creative activity.

Reference
Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows, page 41

Kirtika Kain – uppercase

On the final day of this exhibition at Gallery Lane Cove I went to a discussion between Kirtika and Judith Blackall. Earlier in the week I did an evening workshop with Kirtika, an introduction to monoprinting – more on that soon.

Kirtiki Kain
epigraph
silkscreened iron filings, tar and wax on kozo paper

This exhibition was part of Kirtika’s prize as recipient of the 2017 Lloyd Rees Youth Memorial Award, and was displayed in a separated corner space within the 2019 Award show. Kirtika was born in New Delhi into the Dalits or Untouchables caste. Her father was a beneficiary of affirmative action and trained as a chef, a profession which enabled him and his young family to migrate to Australia. Kirtika is careful to point out that she herself hasn’t experienced discrimination due to her caste. Instead she seems to be an outsider – growing up as a migrant on Sydney’s northern beaches, travelling to New Delhi as a foreign visitor, impacted by caste stigma which is not lived but still inherited.

After initial training in psychology Kirtika received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2016, winning a scholarship to complete her Masters in 2018. In 2019 she completed residencies in New Delhi and Rome, had a solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, was included in a few other exhibitions, then spent November working intensively in the print studio at Lane Cove to create the works for uppercase. The whirlwind continues, with Kirtika already advanced in work for her next scheduled exhibition.

Kirtika is interested in transience. She enjoys the process of making works, rather than feeling a need for them to continue existence – tricky when you get to the commercial gallery situation (she “felt a bit taxidermied”). Kirtika uses the transformation of materials to examine themes of caste stigma, ancestral memory and the language of power and reclamation. The language is a way of accessing her history. In the mid-twentieth century Dr. B.R. Ambedkar transcribed into English the social rules that over generations have been internalised by the Dalits, rules condemning them to subhuman status, denied the smallest vestige of prestige or honour. Kirtika explained she feels the impact of the words on her body as she works with them, and she selects materials responding to this – waste, or with religious and cultural references, or capturing the feeling such as with the density of tar. Materials that hold a history.

Fitting with Kirtika’s interest in the process over the result, she included in the exhibition some of the screens and plates used in creating the works.


Some of the screens were old ones found in the gallery studio space – beautiful, but bound for a cleaning and return for future use. The double meaning of “uncleaned” only occurred to me while writing the caption below.

A number of works used layering very effectively. Edges, fragility, materiality gave impact and depth.

Resources
https://www.artistprofile.com.au/kirtika-kain/
https://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/events/kirtika-kain-corpus

Gathering threads

A warning: this post is intended to be useful to me, and on the blog for the tools it gives me. If any of it is of use to others it will be by accident, not intent.

Exploring a new venture, going a bit further. An occasional bringing together of ideas – but no polish, no photos, travelling light.

Clusters of thought developing:

  • the poetic
  • observation
  • poetic, humanist graphing
  • how to read
  • In One Way Street, under the heading “Attested Auditor of Books”, Walter Benjamin presents an historic sequence of script – inscriptions on upright stones; manuscripts written on sloping desks; the horizontal bed of printing. A pause of a few hundred years here with the book, for script “a refuge in which it can lead an autonomous existence”. Winds of change from the late nineteenth century. Newspapers are read more vertical than horizontal, there are graphic tensions as Mallarmé and later the dada writers play with space, font, placement of text, while film and advertising use the “dictatorial” perpendicular. Script is “pitilessly dragged out into the street”.

    And suddenly something written almost a century ago is incredibly modern – “… the chances of [a modern reader] penetrating the archaic stillness of the book are slight. Locust swarms of print, which already eclipse the sun of what city dwellers take for intellect, will grow thicker with each succeeding year.” Information overload, social media – we are overwhelmed with print. Print on the hard, vertical surfaces of phone and computer.

    So a nice statement of a challenge. For me the kicker is Benjamin’s “qualitative leap” responding to all this quantity, with writing moving further into graphic regions. “In this picture-writing, poets, who will now as in the earliest times be first and foremost experts in writing, will be able to participate only by mastering the fields in which (quite unobtrusively) it is being constructed: statistical and technical diagrams.” The poetics of data visualization!

    Beautifully leading to Johanna Drucker. Previously (7-Jan-2020) I wrote that Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production takes a very wide view, almost a survey of the literature. The information is condensed, so can be difficult. A section on “Humanist Methods” was fascinating, exciting, relevant – and difficult. Until… following the footnotes, I found Drucker’s original paper – http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/5/1/000091/000091.html on the Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ) website – “an open-access, peer-reviewed, digital journal covering all aspects of digital media in the humanities.”

    For now, I’m trying to keep focus. There may be riches beyond the dreams of avarice on that site. That’s for other days. The current excitement is that the paper on the website is the complete version with all the explanatory bits of what was difficult and condensed in the book.

    This is getting turgid, so time for some dotpoints.

  • All data is capta. Looking for a succinct explanation I found “Capta is not data as we typically understand data. Capta represents what is seen, thought and felt. Capta, according to phenomenologists, is the ‘data of the conscious experience’. ” (https://www.informationweek.com/big-data/big-data-analytics/capta-the-data-of-conscious-experience/a/d-id/282625). There is interpretation. The observer is always a participant. A simple example: a bar chart may show hospital admissions by gender, male and female. That’s still often standard, but that simple binary is an assumption, and highly problematic. A count of national population may not include temporary migrant workers. Is time fixed intervals or as experienced (time waiting for a bus = coffee with a friend?).
  • Every metric is a factor of X (the phenomenon) – potential factors: a point of view; agenda; assumption; presumption; convention. A “self evident fact” is a constructed interpretation.
  • Complexity, ambiguity, gaps can be hidden and distorted in graphs.
  • A humanistic approach entails qualitative display of graphical information. “By definition, a humanist approach is centered in the experiential, subjective conditions of interpretation.” (page 130 of book).
  • What could this mean in data viz? Time becomes temporality, and instead of a neat, consistent, linear progression could have folds, loops, whorls, arrows of force, gaps, changes of scale… Think about that coffee – as anticipated, experienced, remembered, by you and by your friends, or observers.

    Drucker concludes her paper “[Graphical expressions of humanistic interpretation] are as different from the visual display of quantitative information as a close reading of a poem is from the chart of an eye tracker following movements across a printed page.”

    It feels like something I should know – but what is poetry? when or why is something poetic? Jane Hirshfield when discussing Bashō writes of “… a tool for emotional, psychological and spiritual discovery, for crafting new experience as moving, expansive and complex of ground…” (I’ve twisted the quote out of context). Some relevant ideas/techniques:

  • juxtaposition, transformation
  • the recognition of impermanence, ceaseless alteration, interdependence
  • (An aside: In the context of chaos theory Drucker writes of dynamic unfolding, transformation, adaptation and emergence. An interesting correspondence of language. And thinking of poetic language, some more from Drucker: “These graphical tools are a kind of intellectual Trojan horse, a vehicle through which assumptions about what constitutes information swarm with potent force.” (my italics, but look back at Benjamin). A dry start, but startling imagery at the end.)

  • the beauty of the most ordinary circumstances and objects (wabi)
  • test ideas against the realities of observation
  • (A jump to Leopardi who claimed fine arts give pleasure by the imitation of nature, with objects imitated “beauty, memory, the attention that is paid to things that we see every day without noticing them, etc”.)

    (And back to Drucker, who pushes for more nuanced presentation of ambiguity and uncertainty, with observer-independent reality a presumption, not a given. “Data are capta, taken not given, constructed as an interpretation of the phenomenal world, not inherent in it.” )

  • an aesthetic of transparence and lightness
  • pointing to both the world and the self
  • Slowing down. I’m writing this in part because attentive reading and careful notetaking isn’t enough. I need to integrate what I am reading into my mental structures. I used to think of this structure as a scaffolding or framework, giving context, a holding place and a place to build on. Now it seems more like a rubbery network of connections that shifts and adapts and accommodates and absorbs – and if all goes well allows me to extract as required.

    More on reading and note-taking: Walter Benjamin claimed “Only the copied text thus commands the soul of him who is occupied with it, whereas the mere reader never discovers the new aspects of his inner self that are opened by the text, the road cut through the interior jungle forever closing behind it; because the reader follows the movement of his mind in the free flight of daydreaming, whereas the copier submits it to command.” Obviously not mindless copying, but this has encouraged me to make more extensive notes, longer direct quotes. Leopardi in Zibaldone also appears to make extensive use of quotations.

    It’s still not enough. Sometimes it takes me a long time to see the obvious, but I’ve been coming to acceptance that I can’t “squeeze all the juice out” no matter how attentive the reading. I need to grow and learn, and in the kind of books I am reading there will always be more to find. Plus each time I read, it is as a different person. Maybe this is a good place to circle back to Jane Hirshfield: “haiku remind us that a person should not become too fixed in a singular sense of what the self might consist of or how, or where it might reside.”

    In what feels a bizarre and futile quest for completeness here I introduce an essay by Umberto Eco – “Intertextual irony and levels of reading”. This essay was my morning reading for five consecutive days. Many times I was bewildered, despondent, angry, frustrated, defensive. Basically I don’t have and will never have the wide knowledge of literature to recognise any but the most obvious allusions to other texts. I’ve started too late, but in any case that’s not the game I want to play. So I will take what works for me, and turn it to my own uses. That, over all that I’m reading, is still plenty. More than enough. And always more to come.

    Hopefully taking time to gather together strands from reading will help take me further, intensifying the impact of my reading. I’ve found Making connected to reading, such as the recent scarf (11-Jan-2020), opens up my understanding and response. So Making as knowledge production.

    Other threads bubbling :

  • Challenges of translation. In Eco and Leopardi.
  • Provocation. Drucker describes her paper as a provocation to a larger project.
  • Exploration versus outcome. Asimov in Second Foundation: “Finished products are for decadent minds.”
  • Metadata and tagging. Leopardi’s slips, Benjamin’s “three-dimensionality of script” in card indexes
  • Reading period: 5 – 15 January 2020

    Eavesdropping at a half-open door

    “one has to teach the skill of reading even to those who are no longer illiterate”

    “uncultured readers… with a vague knowledge that there is something else here, and enjoying the text like someone eavesdropping at a half-open door, glimpsing only hints of a promising epiphany.”

    Umberto Eco, on literature, pages 171 and 219.

    Some days I have the confronting feeling that I’m a beginner in something I’ve practiced daily for almost six decades. Then I tell myself to stop being maudlin and self-indulgent, and just get on with it.

    I have tried to make visible the work of reading. I have complained bitterly when I found reading challenging. I have made reading the foundation of every day. I write about attentive reading, focusing on every line and word… but lately I’ve wondered – am I getting all I can from all this effort? In particular, am I making connections, building usable knowledge. I note correspondences as I go, and the use of indexing glyphs in my notetaking has been useful in later consolidation around particular ideas. Possibly I need to be more alert to the need to extend my glyph set.

    In my last post (7-Jan-2020) I tried to link books and authors with fabric swatches. That was step one in an experiment.

    The previous data viz experiments were generally useful, giving me space and time to think, seeing from different angles, generating some surprises… I decided to look at where I was spending time reading, and to search for rhythms and flows in the mix of reading. Keep mine-ing the existing tool set and stash. The brief developed:
    * Start recording time spent reading.
    * Repeat the scarf form. This time with weaving.
    * Begin simple, with options to elaborate as the process continues. So plain weave. I put a 2 metre warp of black cottolin on the 4-shaft table loom, a straight threading.

    The result is a record of four weeks of reading – 30 November to 27 December. Information encoded:
    * Length of weaving is proportional to length of reading. Four centimetres = One hour.
    * Beginning of day is marked by 5 picks in cotton – white on Sunday, then darkening greys reaching black on Saturday.
    * Indicate book by weft – torn fabric strips.
    * Most reading was done in my workroom. If outside the house, a supplementary fine coppery weft was added (“sunshine”). If bedtime reading, a supplementary weft of silvery white was used (for the moon).
    * When a book or essay was finished (not many were), mark by 5 picks in red cotton.

    Detail – Wednesday 18 December 2019

    In the detail above you might just be able to see the cotton picks at the beginning and end of the day. The book swatches all look quite different when squashed down and used for weft.

    Umberto Eco on literature

    John Berger
    Selected Essays

    In the morning I read Umberto Eco for 45 minutes. John Berger accompanied me on the bus, and in a cafe waiting for CPR training – a total of 50 minutes and a glint of sunshine.

    Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

    At that time I was reading Jane Hirshfield before sleep – hence the loops of white rayon. I wasn’t taking in much, just trying to find the flow, to get an overall sense, hoping to learn enough to be able to read it again with more understanding. Thirty more minutes, and a total of 8.3 cm.

    Classic uses of a data visualisation are discovery (learn something new) and storytelling (communicate ideas). I can’t claim either here. Using standard viz software I would have waited to collect all the data before even starting, then probably run a variety of statistical analyses, experimented with multiple chart types, maybe colour themes and scales, transformations, brought in other data sets for context or comparison… There’s the faintest hint of this in the fringes.

    By amazing chance, the number of warp ends was precisely four times the number of days woven. So each piece of fringe is one day. The fringing shown above records the total amount of time recorded reading each day (range from 0.67 to 2.75 hours). At the other end of the scarf the number of books read is shown – from 1 to 4 each day. Note the same information is already encoded in the weaving. This is simply a different chart type.

    plump folds, showing more of the fabrics

    Despite the proportions, the resulting textile can’t really be called a scarf. It does not drape softly and warmly around the neck. However while it sat on my desk over the last week, I came to love its edges. And to appreciate that “not drape-able” could also be described as “sculptural”

    reading scarf sculpture

    So perhaps wearable sculpture.

    Click for larger image

    Reading swatches

    A game / experiment: matching reading material to fabric swatches. Maybe it could be seen as a form of deliberate self-training in ideasthesia, but really it started because I was trying to improve my reading plus to make the abstract (reading) concrete (clothing-ish). An extra criterion – the fabrics are all from my old clothes (from larger days).

    Antony Gormley On Sculpture

    Antony Gormley On Sculpture


    This book is highly structured and highly thoughtful. I was going to write “generous” but it’s more like the careful guidance of a teacher, dedicated and wanting to share his knowledge, his message, rather than the lighthearted open hand of a friend.

    Chapter 1 discusses his own work, the body in space and time. The second chapter considers works by other sculptors of importance to Gormley. Next was Mindfulness, and the influence of Buddhism on Gormley and his practice. The practice of meditation, and the idea of sculpture about being rather than doing are core. Finally, in Expansion, Gormley takes his ideas a step further. He wrote “Represented movement is a stupid idea for sculpture” (p.78) Instead, looking at stillness, we experience the movement in our own bodies.

    The swatch is from a silk-hemp blend fabric that I dyed using shibori-based stitched resist, then sewed into a top. Where the resist prevents dye is as important as where the dye strikes. The first piece of old clothing I re-purposed, I was conscious of the absent body, and also of a stilled moment, rather than the movement, change, impermanence (I was around 30 kg heavier when I made it) over time. My space. My time.

    Hugh Brody Inside Lake Ballard

    Hugh Brody Inside Lake Ballard


    Inside Lake Ballard is an essay I found on Gormley’s website – http://www.antonygormley.com/resources/essay-item/id/134 I would like to visit this installation. Experience the activated space. Think about what it means to stand in Australia.

    Hot, bright colours from a linen shift seemed right for this swatch.

    Johanna Drucker Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production

    Johanna Drucker Graphesis: Visual forms of knowledge production

    There’s a strong element of the data viz I know, but this book goes far wider. It’s an overview, a survey of the terrain. As well as abstracts and Boolean logic, Drucker considers humanistic, rhetorical arguments produced as a result of making, a poetics of graphical form. Drucker distinguishes between representations of known information and visualizations that are knowledge generators. She gathers together a huge number of references, creating a coherent structure and giving context. At times existing snippets of my knowledge shifted and came into focus, or coalesced in new and intriguing patterns. Many areas were new to me, leading to happy exploration of many rabbit holes even while I was realising how very much more I have to learn. And sometimes a phrase was like a magnet bringing order to iron filings. For example “a reified intellectual construct” provided a structure I didn’t know I needed and opens unforeseen vistas – and that was in a footnote! This is dense and challenging reading.

    The subtle gleam of this swatch from a business jacket is lost in the photo, but the sense of purpose, structure, visual complexity in detail and coherence at distance, and hidden depths remains.

    Giacomo Leopardi Canti and Zibaldone

    Giacomo Leopardi Canti and Zibaldone

    From total ignorance, last year I kept coming across references to Leopardi, starting in the last Hobart session of the intensive creative research group. He was the author of what Mary Ruefle describes as “The World’s Bleakest Poem”, and his conversation between death and fashion is quoted in an essay by John Berger.

    Leopardi (1798 – 1837) has been described as Italy’s first and greatest modern poet. There’s a lot of misery and death in his poetry. The one quoted by Ruefle begins
    Rest forever, tired heart.
    The final illusion has perished.
    The one we believed eternal is gone.

    Zibaldone is enormous, his philosophical and critical notebook in which Leopardi compiled quotes from his extensive reading as well as his own writing and musings. There’s also extensive cross-referencing in a series of indexes that he created. The material collected provided the foundation for Leopardi’s extensive published writing. (That’s three “extensive”s in a row, but what can I do – the word fits!) I now have a copy of the english translation – over 80 pages in the introduction, then 2500 pages of the Zibaldone itself, Leopardi’s own index, and the editors’ notes. The translation itself was a major scholarly effort. Given my own notebook efforts, I was curious to see and learn from a master. Opening at random, page 1335:
    “A language that is strictly universal, whatever language it might be, would certainly and necessarily by its very nature be the most slavish, impoverished, timid, monotonous, uniform, arid, and ugly tongue, the most incapable of any kind of beauty, the most inappropriate to the imagination and the least dependent on it, indeed in every way the most separated from it, the most bloodless, inanimate, and dead, that could ever be conceived; a skeleton, a shadow of a language rather than a real language; a language that would not be living, even if it were written by all and understood universally, indeed it would be a great deal more dead than any language that is no longer spoken or written.”
    One sentence. One rather difficult sentence. As it happens relevant to an essay in Umberto Eco’s book. So many connections. And to be honest, so much that I don’t understand – even as it draws me in. Reading this is going to be a labour of love, probably falling in and out of love with it over years.

    Mauve, paisley and beading feels a good fit for his poetry.

    Mary Ruefle Lectures I will never give

    Mary Ruefle Lectures I will never give

    Just a touch of Mary Ruefle in my reading over the period, to check the poem she referenced. Very interesting to read the two quite different translations. What I’ve read of Ruefle’s work sparkles with ideas and wit. The patterning in the fabric is a modern take on paisley, making a satisfying link.

    Umberto Eco on literature

    Umberto Eco on literature


    When I started reading this book it felt like chocolate – smooth and velvety, warm and luxurious, rich and flowing, but with a sparkle and not cloying so perhaps a hint of champagne. So chocolate, maybe champagne truffles, guided my fabric choice.

    As I read further the book became more challenging – I know nothing of linguistic theory (pretty sure that isn’t the right term), and Eco’s careful differentiation of terms was lost on someone meeting them for the first time. Still, it feels worth learning.

    Emily Dickinson The Complete Poems

    Emily Dickinson The Complete Poems


    I’ve tried opening at random. I’ve tried following themes from the subject index. I know Dickinson has a huge following. But I haven’t connected, so far at least. Perhaps I don’t know enough about poetry to appreciate her inventiveness and the power of broken convention.

    The fabric is a cheat – from the general stash, not old clothing. I can’t quite see or connect with Dickinson. I suspect this swatch doesn’t really suit her, that I am misapplying convention. Perhaps when I’m more mature as a reader I will get further.

    Alain de Botton How Proust can change your life

    Alain de Botton How Proust can change your life

    Mentions of Proust seem to pop up in much of my reading, his influence felt directly or indirectly throughout the 20th century. But reading In Search of Lost Time is a big investment of effort, and I have the impression that many readers fall by the wayside. I’m reminded of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time – a friend was given three copies the Christmas after that came out. People thought it would be right up his alley, but apparently he didn’t finish any of them!

    The plan was that reading Alain de Botton’s book might help me decide whether to take on Proust. Unfortunately…

    What a show pony de Botton is! Yes, there’s information on Proust’s life and on his writing, but it’s all very arch and clever, with lots of winks and smirks and witticisms by de Botton as he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the reader. (I’m assuming that can work in writing as well as on the stage. In any case, he’s putting on a performance so there’s little difference.)

    Fortunately for my own specific purpose, I was able to find Proust’s work online. I’m not un-interested, but I don’t think this is right for me at the moment – especially given that in the meantime I started on Leopardi.

    The flashy pink snake print rayon number is for de Botton.

    Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

    Jane Hirshfield Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World


    This is a book about poetry, written by a poet. The language is rich and beautiful. My own writing is an arid desert. But Hirshfield opens my eyes, my mind, my ears, and I think I’m almost beginning to see a little of what she is showing me. It’s not easy to read. It’s a joy to read.

    One of my all time favourite jackets provides the swatch. All the colours I like, with some shine and an interesting weave.

    John Berger
    Selected Essays

    John Berger
    Selected Essays


    A chapter in Bento’s Sketchbook was my introduction to John Berger’s writing, a chapter in which he is drawing some irises. Some light silk that I painted using watercolour-like techniques then made into a blouse feels a good fit. Most of the essays I’ve read so far in this current book have been short, pieces written for a newspaper. Some of them have me looking at the world differently, thinking about artists and ideas in a different way. Really, just what I want from my reading.

    General Purpose


    This fine wool swatch is included for completeness in the project, a catchall for some side-reading.

    Walter Benjamin
    One-Way Street

    Walter Benjamin
    One-Way Street


    This book contains sixty short prose pieces. Another conglomerate of fragments? Perhaps more a kaleidoscope of insights into the everyday. Lots of little disparate nuggets that together add up to something more. This blouse fabric has the nuggets. It’s also a little difficult and uncomfortable – there’s a metal in the weave.

    Anne Carson
    Float

    Anne Carson
    Float


    This green-blue shot silk doesn’t show well in the photo. I wasn’t conscious of a reason for my choice, but with hindsight could it be something as simple as a Canadian named Anne and “green”? That’s a bit embarrassing. I’d like to distract by drawing a parallel to Carson’s poetry… I find it difficult, clever, beyond my reach but I keep trying. Well while true, that’s not an explanation of the choice that will convince anyone.

    Actually I find a lot of these books difficult. All the reading was done over a four week period, 30 November to 27 December last year. Only a few are finished – Gormley, Brody, de Botton. Most of the rest are still in rotation.

    Dido

    I started this post weeks ago, trying to sort out the … connections? resonances? overarching themes? … in the various books. Poetry and the poetic. In Hobart in January, a couple of nights before the first gathering of the Intensive Creative Research class, I made a little form in wire (it was later modified to become the quivering Dido). I was thinking of the flickering movement as we fight for balance, but in my notes that day thought the model too literal. When I showed the form in class, Ruth called it “poetic”, and I had no idea what that meant. It’s only while writing now that I’ve identified that link in my reading – I’m trying to understand “poetic”. That’s not where I thought this post was going to go. It now seems blindingly obvious and an almost banal conclusion – apart from anything else, there are two volumes of poetry and another subtitled “How great poems transform the world”. Curious.

    This matching is step one in my little game. There’s more to come.


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